2015 Year in Review: 3,872 Miles Traveled & 53 Books Read!

If I had to describe 2015 in one word, I’d probably call it busy. If you grant me two words, I’d say life-changing. Can I have two words please?

We kicked off 2015 as new residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Not long after settling in we experienced the Asheville Snowmageddon 2015. It was fun… at first. Much better after we got a snow shovel. Though, I have to say the Fall of 2014 was a lot more fun – especially for Frodo.

Asheville 2015 Pisgah National Forest

We experienced the joy of living in a National Forest, definitely an experience I’ll never forget. This also included fighting a little bit with the creatures that lived near our house. There were the birds, and the spiders. And Dave protecting our house from critter invasion…

Dave on a Mission

I finally had a chance to photograph our bedtime routine with Frodo. Yes, we still brush his teeth every night. He loves it, and so do his teeth! You can tell from the photos he has a good time.

In May, we watched a life-changing documentary, and have been vegans ever since. It’s been almost 8 months now and I only wish we had made the change sooner.

Early in July we decided to take our life on the road, and began the process of downsizing our belongings. In a few short months we sold most of our stuff, our house, our car, and purchased a truck and a travel-trailer. It was a whirlwind of activities.

We hit the road October 17th, officially house-less, beginning our journey as nomads. After leaving Asheville, we traveled very quickly to South Dakota to get our driver’s licenses. On the way, we stopped through some pretty areas I look forward to re-visiting. Columbia, Missouri was gorgeous! 

Stephens Lake Park_The Lake

Rock Port, MO had a lot of character. I wouldn’t mind going back for a few days, especially during warmer months.

We were only in Amarillo, Texas for a short time, but long enough to see some interesting things. Like a donkey. And an emu.

And then, we got crazy with it. It was at this point we further downsized and sold our truck and travel trailer, and switched to a van. Once comfortably settled in our new van, the race was on to get somewhere warm. We headed to Arizona, yet at the same time, experienced a month without hot water. Go figure.

Now we are wrapping up 2015, living in a van, living a vegan life-style, and currently chilling out in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – while we recover from the whirlwind that this year has been. And it’s been a doozy. With only traveling the last portion of the year, we still managed to cover 3,872 miles. The speed was purely insane and I hope to never need to travel that far at that pace ever again! But, we managed to get our domicile squared away, improve our travel setup, get our van repaired, and… rest in the quiet of the southwest. I’d say the travel part of this year was smashing, though speedy. But, it was worth it. Every crazy minute of it.

2015 - 3872 Miles Traveled

There’s still one aspect from 2015 I haven’t had a chance to address yet, and that’s my reading life. I set out to read 52 books, and did it (read 53 books actually), and though some were good, and some were great, many were fantastic. I figured I would highlight my favorites from this year and tried to narrow down my selection to a Top 5. I couldn’t.

Out of the 53 books I read this year, here are my Top 8 Favorites:

2015 was a great year, and 2016 will be even better. I wish everyone a happy, healthy new year!

30 Days Later

30 Days After Going VeganIt’s hard to believe it’s been a month! It’s now been thirty days on our new diet and I think we’re now at the point where this is just how it is, and this is our new normal. Switching to a Whole Food Plant Based Diet for us was pretty darn easy. It was roughly two years ago when we stopped eating sugar and processed foods, and went to a Whole Food diet so this time the swap was relatively easy – at least after the first few days! Once we figured out how to combine food better to avoid blood sugar swings and stave off feelings of starvation it’s been pretty simple.

5 years ago I felt forced into giving up my Vegetarian identity. Really, at the time, it had been ten years for me as a Vegetarian, and it felt like a part of my soul was shattering. I didn’t agree with it, I just felt like I had to – and the story and reasons why are way too long to write here. Let’s just say that now 5 years later, if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had to do that. I’m now better equipped to deal with Gastroparesis as a Vegan, but I sure didn’t have the tools or resources back then. But, life is all about life-long learning and new experiences and I know more now, and I can’t let myself feel bad about what I thought I needed to do. That was then, this is now.

At this point, our household is now Vegan-friendly, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Our health will be better for it, and on top of everything, I can really and truly feel good about the food choices we are making. When researching diet and health, especially when learning about a Plant Based Diet, you can’t help but also learn more about conventional factory farming methods, and the materials that come from that world that end up on clothing racks (such as leather, wool, and other animal-sourced products).

When I became a Vegetarian in my early twenties, I continued purchasing animal-sourced products because I wasn’t too fond of the alternatives at the time. I did often consider my purchases and weigh decisions more heavily if what I was purchasing had come from an animal. At this point in my life, that is too far of a mental disconnect for my mind to make, and there are so many alternatives to products I would previously have considered purchasing that it’s a very easy decision.

This last month has been very full. I didn’t pick up my camera the entire time, which is the longest stretch I’ve gone in years. It felt like it was finally time to share some of what’s been on my mind…

By the way, there’s another reason I picked up my camera today. I wanted a photo documentation of some of the changes that I’ve noticed, such as… my complexion. The photo at the top of this post is me – without any makeup. Of course, if you know me, you know I rarely wear makeup anyway… but I often add a tiny bit if I know I’m going to be photographed. I’ve been harassed my entire life about how pale I am, but people who know me, care about me, and strangers. It seems everyone has an opinion and they’re never shy to share it! Well you know what? I’m less pale now! About two weeks after making the switch to a Vegan diet, I did a double take one day as I passed a mirror. I’m not as pale anymore! No, it’s not like I look tan or anything, I just look… healthier! I had heard that could happen, but I didn’t believe it. So there ‘ya go. A #nofilter view of me 🙂

Best Dinner Ever. Seriously.

Sometimes dinner is pretty darn good, and sometimes it’s “knocked it out of the park, hit a home run, 5-star meal good”. In other words, our dinner tonight was the best meal I’ve had in ages.
Black Bean and Yam SaladI’m not the cook in our house, but I’m usually around when the cooking is happening, so I can comment about meals and say if it was quick and easy, or, not-so-quick but definitely worth it. You know, I creatively interpret the chef’s grumbles into workable explanations.

Tonight however, Dave made dinner while I napped on the couch. Yes, I admit to it. Frodo curled up with me and I fell asleep, and napped while Dave slaved away in the kitchen. I do know this recipe took quite awhile to make, but oh. My. It. Was. Amazing.

Pictured above is a Black Bean & Yam Salad That is to Die For. Only you won’t die, because it’s very good for you. Dave followed the recipe from this site and only made minor adjustments to our taste. For example, he substituted the cilantro and used parsley instead. Also, he used half quinoa and half wild rice instead of all quinoa. Really pretty minor adjustments.

For the “taco-style seasoning” he used:

  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 3/4 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Chipotle Chile Powder
  • 1/8th tsp Black Pepper
  • 3/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder

The magical forces worked in my favor, and while I slept… Dave not only made dinner, he noted the adjustments he made to the recipe so we have them for the future (thank you Dave!). A miracle occurred here tonight!

And, we have tons and tons and tons of left overs. Tons. We are going to eat well this week!

What Do We Say to Death?

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones (the books or the show), you know the answer to this.

That’s right. Not today.

A few days ago I was in the mood to watch a documentary… so we ended up watching Fed Up via Netflix. It was quite the eye opener. Due to a lot of dietary restrictions, we already avoid processed foods so this didn’t turn into an immediate call-to-action in our home, but it was still quite enlightening and I recommend the video to anyone who is interested in making healthy food choices.

Last night I was in the mood for another documentary, and this time, we went with Forks Over Knives. Oh. My. Oh. No. What did I just unleash on my family? Knowledge is power, and the knowledge about healthy eating has been out (and heavily studied) for more than thirty years. The documentary is excellent, and was earth-shattering for us. Earth. Shattering.

If you have Netflix, definitely give these two documentaries a go… they are very well worth watching. And if you do not have Netflix, here is a related video freely available to watch on YouTube: Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death – presented by Michael Greger, MD. This presentation is an hour long, but it is a must-watch. If nothing else, give it a chance for the first ten minutes and see what you think.

In relation to these documentaries, I am now reading The China Study which is referenced often during Forks Over Knives. If you’d like to check this out, it’s available to read via Scribd (click here for a free 2 month trial).

Have you seen Forks Over Knives or read The China StudyWhat do you think about the information you learned?